01 June 2020, 15:35

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 25-31, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; CTO in Ingushetia; complaints from medical officers working with coronavirus-infected patients in Southern Russia; protest of Russia's Bar Association in defence of colleagues in Kabardino-Balkaria; return of Ramzan Kadyrov to public after the information about his illness, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 25-31, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

There has been still an increase in the number of coronavirus-infected patients in Southern Caucasus and in the regions of Southern Russia.

By the evening on May 31, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Georgia reached 738 (53 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 5494 patients (1372 new cases over the week), in Armenia – 9282 (2621 new cases over the week), in Abkhazia – 28 (0 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 40 (7 new cases over the week), and in South Ossetia – 39 (2 new cases over the week). The COVID-19 death toll is also growing. As of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on May 31, Armenia registered 131 deaths, Azerbaijan – 63, Georgia – 12, and Abkhazia – 1. Thus, Armenia still leads in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll.

The Georgian authorities continue to mitigate the restrictive measures imposed in connection with the spread of the coronavirus infection. On May 27, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakhariya announced that in connection with the improvement of the epidemiological situation, starting from May 29, the operation of all types of municipal transport, including the metro, was allowed. On June 1, restaurants and cafes with outdoor areas are also allowed to resume their operation. The Georgian authorities also announced the opening of domestic tourism starting from June 15 and the resumption of international tourism starting from July 1. Entrepreneurs working in the tourism industry expressed their satisfaction with the announcement. However, according to owners of hotels and hostels in Adjara interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", a lot of issues regarding the operation of the tourism sector amid the threat of the spread of the coronavirus infection have not been yet resolved. On May 29, in Azerbaijan, where last week there was an increase in the number of cases of the coronavirus infection over the past several days, the authorities extended the quarantine regime until June 15 and obliged residents to wear medical masks in public places. The authorities of the country have also announced that if the number of cases of the coronavirus infection continues to increase, the quarantine regime may again be strengthened and a complete ban will be imposed on leaving home on weekends. In Armenia, which faces the most difficult situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection in Southern Caucasus, no new mitigations or restrictions have been reported so far. Meanwhile, on May 25, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan mentioned the expectation of the civil liability of the population as one of the authorities' mistakes in the fight against the epidemic. While commenting on the opinions that the health system of the country is on the verge of crisis and will fail in the nearest future, the Armenian Ministry for Public Health announced that the country did not experience any difficulties in combating the coronavirus infection.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on May 24, it was reported about 26,409 coronavirus-infected patients in all the regions of Southern Russia, then by the evening on May 31, their total number reached 32,869 (6460 new cases over the week). Over the week, Dagestan still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 4955 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. In the Rostov Region, 4758 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Krasnodar Territory – 3824, in the Volgograd Region – 3026, in North Ossetia – 2957, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 2827, in the Stavropol Territory – 2485, in Ingushetia – 2083, in the Astrakhan Region – 1752, in Chechnya – 1227, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 1067, in Kalmykia – 1054, and in Adygea – 854.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased significantly: from 317 to 540. Over the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 235 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Dagestan is followed by Ingushetia where 50 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered. As of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on May 31, in the Rostov Region, 38 patients with the diagnosis of the coronavirus infection died, in the Krasnodar Territory – 32, in the Volgograd Region – 19, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 17, in Kalmykia – 15, in the Astrakhan Region – 15, in Chechnya – 13, in Adygea – 9, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 5.

In Southern Russia, the quarantine measures imposed earlier are being extended. Meanwhile, some mitigation measures are being introduced in certain regions. So, on May 25, the Mufti of Chechnya announced lifting a ban on marriage according to the Islamic standards, imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the condition of no crowded wedding parties. Chechen residents were surprised by such a decision amid the remaining bans. People note that they are waiting for the lifting of the ban on leaving home to be able to earn money, while a lot of Chechen residents are short of money to arrange wedding parties.

CTO in Ingushetia

On May 30, in the Ingush city of Sunzha, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced. Law enforcers reported that they cordoned off suspected militants in one of the buildings then taken by assault. During the special operation, two persons were killed, who were identified as Ingush natives Mereshkov and Ozdoev, sources from the law enforcement bodies reported. According to the law enforcement bodies, the killed suspects were plotting a number of crimes of a terrorist nature in the republic. Firearms, ammunition, and an improvised explosive device (IED) were found at a place of the incident, the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported. The CTO became the third special operation conducted in the republic since early 2020.

Complaints from medical officers working with coronavirus-infected patients in Southern Russia

Complaints from medical officers working with coronavirus-infected patients continue to come from various regions of Russia. So, on May 27, in a video appeal to President Putin, employees of a hospital in the town of Gukovo in the Rostov Region claimed that they had to contact coronavirus-infected patients, but did not receive any compensation for working under the conditions of the epidemic. On May 30, Cherkessk ambulance officers recorded a series of video appeals about catching the coronavirus infection because of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). As a result, the number of ambulance crews on duty was reduced by three times, and patients have to wait for an ambulance for four to six hours, medical officers claim.

Protest of Russia's Bar Association in defence of colleagues in Kabardino-Balkaria

On May 28, in Nalchik, law enforcers detained for 48 hours advocates Diana Tsipinova and Ratmir Zhilokov on suspicion of using violence against policemen during a conflict which occurred in the town of Nartkala on May 20. According to investigators, on that day, Ratmir Zhilokov behaved rudely with policemen and used physical violence against one of them, while trying not to let the policemen into an institution, where gambling was allegedly taking place. Investigators claim that Diana Tsipinova hit policemen, while trying to break through to her detained colleague Ratmir Zhilokov. In protest against her detention, on May 28, Diana Tsipinova went on hunger strike in a Baksan IVS (temporary detention facility). On May 31, in Moscow, seven persons, including advocates, went to solo pickets with the demand to stop the criminal prosecution of Ratmir Zhilokov and Diana Tsipinova.

The head of the Russian Federal Bar Association (RFBA) treats the law enforcers' actions in Nartkala as a "flagrant violation of the professional rights of advocates and the requirements of the law." The Bar Association of Kabardino-Balkaria appealed to the regional Prosecutor and the Minister of Internal Affairs with requests to investigate the situation. The appeal prepared by the "Foundation in Defence of Advocates" in defence of Diana Tsipinova and Ratmir Zhilokov was signed by 1600 of their colleagues.

Return of Ramzan Kadyrov to public after information about his illness

On May 26, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appeared at a meeting of the republican operational headquarters to combat the coronavirus infection. This happened five days after his alleged illness had been reported. Let us remind you that on May 21, a source close to the medical circles reported to the "Interfax" that Ramzan Kadyrov was under medical supervision because of the suspected coronavirus infection. Many social network users noticed a medical catheter on the right arm of Ramzan Kadyrov, while he took part in the meeting of the operational headquarters held on May 26. On May 27, while answering questions on the air in the Instagram account of his assistant Akhmed Dudaev, the leader of Chechnya demonstrated his arms without any catheters and stated that he was absolutely healthy. Ramzan Kadyrov explained his absence in public by a planned medical examination. In the evening on May 28, journalist Elena Milashina reported that Ramzan Kadyrov and his attending physician had arrived in Moscow. On May 29, it was confirmed that the aircraft, which Ramzan Kadyrov usually uses, made a flight to Moscow and back. The media suggested that the Chechen leader continued receiving medical treatment at a clinic in Moscow. However, on the same day, Ramzan Kadyrov himself refuted the above information. Residents of Chechnya were worried about the Ramzan Kadyrov's health state because of a sense of uncertainty, the "Caucasian Knot" was told by sociologists Igor Seleznyov and Denis Volkov and human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina. According to them, among other things, the lack of clear information about the Ramzan Kadyrov's illness worries residents of Chechnya, because Ramzan Kadyrov controls the entire system of power in the republic, and people associate his absence with a loss of stability.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on June 1, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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